Gusty winds have forced us to cancel many trips this year, but every offshore trip has proved memorable. Usually the trolling tackle would be put away in anticipation of March, when the water warms and schools of bait (and their predators) show up. Schools of Spanish sardines and threadfins remain at most mid-water artificial reefs. South County Reef has had bait stacked on almost every high-profile structure. Kingfish, bonita, jack crevalle and a few Spanish mackerel are still in residence as well. Spoons, plugs and live bait have all produced well. Red grouper, scamp, triggerfish, white grunts, mangrove snapper, yellowtail, Lane snapper, vermillion snapper and hogfish are among the bottom fish in season, and these species will provide non-stop action in water 50 to 80 feet deep. Bottom fish are still active because of the warmer-than-usual water and live pinfish or bait caught by use of a sabiki on the way offshore will trigger a bite from some grouper. Kingfish activity has been unexpected, and we are deploying a live or frozen sardine on a stinger rigged flatline on every bottom stop with great results. The kingfish have been in the schoolie size, perfect to harvest for the table.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.